This is a sample reading response essay to an article titled “Cell Phones are Dangerous" by Mary Johnson, agreeing with the article and extending one of the ideas.
Paragraph 1: Dramatic re-telling of a personal story of picking up my cell phone and then realizing that I am going to crash into another car. Stop the story right before the crash.
Paragraph 2: Like most people, I thought I was a good enough driver to handle using a cell phone while driving. I found out I was wrong. It turns out I’m not unusual. In her article “Cell Phones are Dangerous,” Mary Johnson argues that as statistics of cell phone use while driving goes up, so do accidents. According to Johnson, we should not use our phones while driving and should educate others not to use them either. Johnson cites statistics showing that talking on a cell phone is as dangerous as driving drunk. Moreover, she points out the increasing number of accidents caused by cell phone use. Her conclusion is that we need to personally decide not to use a cell phone while driving and that we need to educate our friends and family to give up using cell phones while driving too. I agree with Jones that cell phones are dangerous and that we should personally choose to not use one while driving; however, I’d go further than Jones by adding that we need to have laws that prohibit anyone from using cell phones in cars.
Each of these statements would be the topic sentence of one of the body paragraphs. For the first one, I also give examples of the type of arguments and support I would use to write that paragraph and prove my point.
1. Laws make people realize that cell phone driving is dangerous. (Below is an example of some support I could use to back up this idea—you can use ideas from the article but do not repeat the article.)
- support with an anecdote of friends or family thinking a call is more important than driving
- use statistics from article
- argue some people will be convinced by being educated, but not everyone
- use example of seatbelt laws saving lives
- argue that using a cell phone endangers others and not just yourself
2. New technology requires changes in public policy.
3. People in my generation feel obligated to take a call, but if it is illegal to call while driving, they won’t feel that pressure.
4. Using hands-free headsets won’t work because it is the call which is distracting, not holding the phone.
5. This law will save a lot of lives.
I would return to my personal story and pick it up where I left off. I do crash and there is a lot of damage to my car, but no one is hurt. I can explain my great relief that my cell phone use did not end more tragically, and my personal decision to put my cell phone where I can’t reach it while driving. End with an appeal to the reader to do the same, but to also support legislation to prohibit cell phone use while driving.
In a text response essay, you will be assessed on your ability to develop an argument/discussion relating to a prompt, your ability to analyse themes, issues and characters in an insightful way, your ability to identity an author’s intentions and unpack their narrative devices.
Remember, the reason you are studying your particular text is because it has some complex and thoughtful themes. You must discuss the text’s complexity, but in a systematic way. Start with the simple and obvious points and then show a progression of thoughts.
If you are getting around a mid-range C-B, you probably need to work on:
- Sharper and more analytical topic sentences. Make sure they directly answer the question and set up a paragraph that will develop the main theme in a thoughtful and profound way.
- Make sure that each topic sentence has a different focus so as to avoid repetition. In a B-range essay there is often considerable repetition of ideas.
- Evidence: you must be as analytical as possible and avoid general statements. Show an insightful knowledge of the text by choosing key evidence/insightful/ ambivalent examples in the text to support the topic sentence.
- Build your discussion around the author’s intentions, purpose, narrative devices. These will keep the focus on analysis rather than summary.
- Be sure to show readers/assessors that you are capable of precise and accurate analysis of characters, themes and significant moments/turning points in a text’s narrative.
The flow of ideas throughout the paragraph
- Take each topic sentence and brainstorm the points/quotes/insights that you must include in the paragraph. Group together similar ideas and then delve deeper.
- Make sure that your paragraph flows. Do not just cobble together a list of statements or quotes. Make sure that each point follows and adds to the previous point.
- Make sure you give priority to the narrative devices.
- Do not just add irrelevant details in order to pad the paragraph; or if there are two perspectives/views on the statement, include them separately.
- Please see sample paras on Romeo and Juliet.
- Awkward phrases: work on sophistication of expression. Avoid clumsy verb phrases. Use nominals. Work at incorporating quotes into the grammatical construction of your sentence. Use a combination of short, snappy sentences and longer sentences. Do not lose control of the subject. See Notes on Improving Expression.
Write a 1-2 page summary of the “most important” or key points/issues in the text. Ask yourself, if you had to write a response on this text, what could you absolutely not leave out, or omit to mention (taking into account that given the prompt, you may make a short or longer reference to this key piece of evidence/quote/views/values.)
- See Writing a Comparative Essay
- See Romeo and Juliet : Study Page
- See Macbeth: Study Page